Pets are part of the family. Vacationing with your pets can be fun for everyone, but if a pet goes missing, it causes a lot of problems that may prevent a safe recovery. At the very least, it almost always results in a delayed or ruined vacation. Every year our organization takes in hundreds of lost dog reports from dogs that were lost while traveling. Don’t let it happen to you!
Prevention is the key to making sure that you and your pets have an enjoyable trip. Here are our five top tips.
1. Update your information
Make sure your pets are microchipped and the contact information attached to the microchip is up to date. Your cell phone number (not your landline) should be the primary point of contact. A trusted family member or friend should be the secondary point of contact. The ability of the shelter, vet clinic, or microchip company to get a hold of you quickly is very important. Keep your microchip information in several places with you when you travel, including in your cell phone and with your pet’s vet records in a briefcase or in your glove compartment. It should be easily identifiable – the envelope should say “vet records” – in case you are injured in an accident and an emergency responder is trying to help you. Keep current photos of your pets on your phone in case you need to prove ownership at a shelter or create missing pet flyers.
2. Secure your pets
Dogs and cats should wear both well-fitted collars and harnesses when they travel with identifying information. Even microchipped animals should have visible ID tags on at all times. Have two leashes for each dog for potty stops. Attach one to the harness and one to the collar. This gives you an extra layer of protection if your pet gets spooked and backs out of one. Put the handles of the leashes securely over your wrists, and do not allow small children to walk the dogs at rest stops. They could be pulled off their feet by a scared dog. Cats should be set up with litter boxes in a large carrier so they can relieve themselves while traveling.
3. Buckle up
Dogs should travel in a pet seat belt attached to their harness or in a secure pet carrier. Cats should always travel in a carrier. Many pets are lost when an unsecured pet escapes from a vehicle after an accident. Emergency responders may rush to help human occupants and inadvertently let pets out of the car. Unsecured pets may be thrown from a vehicle on impact and be injured, killed, or lost. Pets should never be allowed to wander a vehicle or sit on the driver’s lap. This is distracting for the driver and a recipe for disaster.
4. Choose breaks carefully
The most likely time for a pet to escape is during a rest stop or potty break. Noisy, busy truck stops and gas stations are not a good choice for a bathroom break. A loud noise from a backfiring truck or a “Jake brake” can send your dog fleeing. Instead, choose a quiet, grassy area where your pet can do its business (remember to pick it up!). Don’t linger. Get your pet back into its carrier or seatbelt as quickly as possible and get on your way to your destination. The safest place for your pet while in transit is securely in your vehicle.
5. Planning is key
Take the time to think about your journey, possible rest areas, and potty stops so you don’t get caught in traffic and have to make an unplanned stop to let your dog out. Never leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Be aware of your surroundings. Know what municipalities, counties, and states you are traveling through so that if you have to create a lost dog report you know where you are.
Enjoy your trip and have a wonderful, safe vacation!